Thursday, April 14, 2011

Italia: Day 3 - Pisa; Arrival in Florence

After another delicious breakfast basket, we packed up our rollies and bid farewell to La Torretta.  If we could change anything about our trip, we both agreed we would have liked another day in Cinque Terre.  You definitely get the gist of it in one full day, but a second day to hike one of the legs of the Sanctuary Trail {a route that links each town's church or shrine} and poke around a bit more in the villages would have been perfect.  Que sera, sera - maybe next time! 

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Sparkle Toms, waiting for the Manarola commuter train
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Someone's psyched 
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a somewhat graphic warning on the commuter

The quickest route out of Cinque Terre to Florence is the train from La Spezia Centrale to Pisa to Firenze.  Since neither of us had visited Pisa on past trips to Italy, we decided to make a side-trip out of our stopover to see that tower do some leanin'. 

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Oh Italy.  Even your train stations are frescoed.
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Headed to Pisa
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Pisa is... eh.  Good for a delicious lunch and a peak at the basilica.  Nothing too special.  We were told a "flower festival" would be going on and I was jazzed to see some beautiful botanicals... but, upon arrival, we realized it was some sort of small fair.  The only live flowers were displayed in these Vespas, while local artists transformed large, daisy-shaped canvases... initially blank except for a clip-art-type elephant in the center.  Huh.  Different than what we were expecting, but pretty neat. 

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The highlight of Pisa was our lunch. Another Top 8 Meal for me {although I'd rank it last of the best}.  Every restaurant we went to was recommended - either by a guidebook, online reviews {I love Frommers, Fodors, Chowhound, and - sometimes - Trip Advisor}, or by the staff at our hotel. This little gem was down a random alleyway and boasted a charming little sun room off the main dining area where we sat for lunch. 

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bruschetta with lard {which sounds much prettier in Italian}
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And so begins Evs' extended affair with Meat Ragu.
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Kate: Squid Ink Ravioli Stuffed with Fish in a Shrimp & Asparagus Sauce

I mean, how incredibly delightful are those portions?  Pure perfection.  

While I would have loved to linger over another glass of wine and perhaps some tiramasu, we had a tower to see and a train to catch.  

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It appears!  Very leany! 
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Obligatory Leaning Tower / Leaning Husband photo
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Having checked Pisa's Main Event off our list, we retrieved our bags from the luggage check and sped off towards Firenze where we hailed a cab {after Day 1, I was pretty much D-O-N-E with meandering around lugging a suitcase behind me... Usually the Finance Man would have protested but he wisely forked over the Euro for cab fare - bless him} to our next B&B.  In Piazza della Signora is exactly that... in the Piazza della Signora.  Such a central location {the Uffizi sits on one side and the Ponte Vecchio connects with the square} and so cool to be able to step out your door and spy a dozen recognizable statues. Michaelangelo's David used to live here... Now a replica sits in his place while he chills in the Accademia. {Apparently the replica wasn't worth taking a photo of though.  Oopsies.} 

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"Dude Who Slayed Medusa" in the Loggai dei Lanzi
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The Rape of Sabine in the Loggai dei Lanzi
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Know what else was cool?  The B&B itself.  Well appointed; delicious breakfast; super-accommodating staff... and sweet digs. We stayed in the "Beatrice" room, which I admit to requesting because of the sexy bathroom.  This would have knocked La Torretta's out of the park had the shower functioned.  Guess what's not sexy?  Washing your hair in a shallow bath that fills from a mysterious hole instead of a faucet that one might use to rinse her {rather overgrown} mane.  Oh well.  Win some, lose some. The farm fresh scrambled eggs and extra foamy cappuccino 99% made up for my filmy locks. 

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That's Scary-Toothed Kid on the Left, Brendan Fraser on the Right.
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Jebesus, Italians love them some frescoes.
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Tub that was awesome... IN THEORY. 

I'll pause to answer a query about hotel selection... I'm a travel guide junky - I could sit in the travel section at B&N and browse for hours!  My first love is Frommers and I always buy a hard copy.  I like to highlight and underline and star and double-star and notate.  For this trip, we had the Frommers: Italy 2010, as well as a Fodors: Italy that Evs purchased in 2007 {I cross-checked the info with their website - most of it was still accurate-sih}.  We also bought a Fodors: Tuscany & Umbria guide that was great for our time in Florence.  I usually pick our hotels from the guidebooks... after pouring over the reviews on Trip Advisor {I'm a big Trip Advisor fan - I always check the "real photos" from actual travelers' visits to get a better idea of what we can really expect our room to look like} and other random travel message boards that I stumble upon via Google. Our lodging in Firenze and Roma were both Frommer and Fodor picks.  The guidebooks suck when it comes to Cinque Terre.  I got a ton of information from Rick Steeves {about the area in general} and I picked La Torretta off Trip Advisor.  I rely on Rick as well for great itineraries, etc. 

Upon arrival, we checked in, procured ourselves a dinner reservation based on the staff's recommendation {many restaurants are closed on Sundays so most of the options I'd dog-earred weren't available}, wandered for a bit, and then cooled our heels doing what we do best...

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Did you know most classic chiantis contail 13.5% alcohol?  Yeah.  We didn't either.  Talk about a Happy Hour.

Then it was time to eat again!  Yippee!  We had ourselves a lovely little supper across the river at the Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco {White Boar Osteria}- not in my Top 8 {although Evs says it's in his... which should be named the Unadventurous Eater Top 8, just FYI} but very tasty nonetheless. 

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Hello again, my love.
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Tomato-Bread Soup
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Evs: Seafood Risotto - when this arrived, he looked afraid, 
but I'm happy to report he enjoyed it thoroughly - progress!
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Spinach & Ricotta Dumplings... delightful! 
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Hey there Chianti!
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Evs' first tiramisu... EVER. Shocking, I know. It's now his favorite dessert.
I think I'm going to have to make it next birthday instead of the King Cake.

And, with a late night stroll across the Ponte Vecchio back to our hotel, so ended another fabulous day.  Tune in tomorrow for Boozing It Through Chianti with Evs & Kate! 

18 comments:

  1. Florence was my favorite place I have ever been... sigh! I want to go back!

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  2. Ugh, my friend.. you are making me SO JEALOUS! If I hadn't quit my former job I would be back in Rome for 10 days in late May. Glorious! No regrets though, besides the insane hours I love my new job... and I do get to go to London in October, so that's a perk. But, I sure do love Italy... something special. Glad you're safe and sound after your arrival story - OH MY GOSH!

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  3. Love, love your recaps. Your writing style is great Kate!

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  4. I feel like I am looking at my own trip! We made or ate gnudi every other day! I'll send you the recipe- surprisingly very easy and healthy!

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  5. Perseus killed Medusa. My husband and I went as the two of them for Halloween. :)

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  6. You sound just like me--the two times that I've been to Italy, I can't bring myself to say "Florence" for quite some time after getting home. Then I revert back to good ol American English and forget the lovely way "Firenze" rolls off the tongue. Which means it's time to go back!

    So I'm gathering that this trip was Cinque Terre, Florence and Rome? Completely awesome. But have you been to Venice? It gets a bad rap. . .I know a lot of people who say they hated it, it's dirty and stinky, overrun with tourists and those trying to take advantage of them, etc. But having been to seven countries in Europe, Venice is still in my top two favorite cities anywhere! If you haven't been, be sure to consider a few days there on your next trip to Italy.

    I also recommend staying in Monterosso next time you're in the Cinque Terre--if you're into the beach thing and it's the right time of year, anyway. The first time I went there, it was on the end of a two month backpacking-through-Europe trip. We purposely planned a 5 day stay there, being the end of May and knowing that we'd need some time to rest after non-stop walking, trains, museums, and city hopping. Best decision ever! We did visit all 5 towns, and did enough walking around to feel like we had really experienced it. But basically we spent 90% of the 5 days laying on that lovely sandy beach, only rousing ourselves to walk up to one of the little cafes along the beach to get a good piece of foccaccia for lunch, and then to take a shower and go eat pasta on a terrace while watching the moon reflect on the Mediterranean for a couple of hours before falling asleep to the sound of the waves outside the open windows of our little guest house. Ahhhh. I can feel my pulse slowing just remembering those five days! Put in a little beach time in Monterosso next time you're there, you'll love it!

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  7. I'm so glad you had a wonderful time. These recaps, though, are making me sick with jealousy. I went to Italy for 2 weeks in 2007 (honeymoon of now defunct marriage). I love, love, love Italy and am dying to go back. I'm racking up as many miles/points as I can so maybe next year will be the year.

    Will you possibly do a round-up/review of the top 8 meals at the end? That would be fabulous. I gained 14lbs in Italy and didn't regret a single bite.

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  8. When I studied abroad in Firenze we used to often to go Cinghiale Bianco for those dumplings! It's so nice to see they still have them.

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  9. Is it bad that the thing I'm digging the most is the food pictures??

    Yay for Evs for trying seafood risotto! And he's never had tiramisu?? Very glad he was able to experience that--and in Italy no less!

    You know who loves them some frescoes? MY PARENTS. They had their entire kitchen, hallway and bedroom ceilings done in Italian inspired frescoes. Goes well with the cat mural, obviously.

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  10. Need to get self to Italy STAT! Loving these recaps!

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  11. Firenze is my happy place. When I studied abroad there I would throw the shutters of my window open each morning and should "FIRENZE!" I'm sure my roommates loved me. Since I can't back anytime soon, I'll live vicariously through your trip recaps.

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  12. More lovely food shots! And you're killing me with wanting to go back to Italy. And I'm always glad to know what you found fantastic, and what was just eh.

    cozystyle.cozyeggdesigns.com

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  13. @Maura - I will DEFINITELY do a recap of my Top 8 Italian Eateries at the end!

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  14. We never made it to Pisa -- but spent a bunch of time in Florence and Tuscany. So much fun.

    I LOVED that tomato soup -- seeing your picture of it makes me wish I had some now.

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  15. Ahh, these pictures brought back so happy memories. Thanks for sharing. Oh, Firenze!

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  16. Lady, you are killing me with these food photos! My mouth is watering. And even more chianti on day 4? I shall dream tonight of my future trip to Italia.

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  17. Ooooh Florence.... my favorite city from study abroad!! I would go back in a heartbeat -- can't wait to see what else you got into while there!

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  18. The bread-based tomato soup in Florence is delicious! It's one of those meals that I often think about. I've searched for a recipe that is comparable, but have been unable to do so. If you ever come across something, please share!

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happy little comments!